Skiers asked to support interconnect |

Skiers asked to support interconnect

by Andrew Kirk, THE PARK RECORD

Few initiatives could make as big a difference in growing Utah’s ski economy as the proposed interconnect between Canyons Resort and Solitude Mountain Resort.

That’s according to Nathan Rafferty, president of Ski Utah the agency that promotes Utah’s brand for the state’s 14 winter resorts. Rafferty was asked about the proposed interconnect at the Park City Chamber/Bureau’s annual Fall Forum Wednesday at The Chateaux at Silver Lake.

"It’s like comparing an HD TV to a regular old square box. Except the difference is you’re the only one on the block with HD and there are none left," he said.

Rafferty said his job is to sell what the resorts are offering. Park City’s resorts win accolades for exceptional service, lodging and amenities.

"Six miles away as the crow flies Alta and Snowbird are winning accolades for terrain what if you could connect these things? You’d create a pretty compelling product," he said.

Long-term transportation plans may also include allowing people to ride a train from the Salt Lake City International Airport to ski areas. For all these changes, it’s a question of when, not if, Rafferty said.

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"What we’ll promote 10 to 15 years from now will be light years ahead," he added.

Mike Goar, managing director of Canyons, was on a panel with Rafferty on Wednesday. He said the interconnect would be possible because of features only Utah can offer.

His resort sits just minutes off a major interstate highway that comes straight from an international airport. But an interconnect needs somewhere to go, and few places see ski resorts working as well together as they do in Utah.

"We have advantages over any region in the country," Goar said.

"What we’re seeing at Canyons now is a game changer," added Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association and moderator of the panel.

Jamie Pentz, publisher of Mountain Media and another panelist, said some resorts in other states do not like each other and adopt strategies that drag one another down.

This unique opportunity is an important message to get out, Rafferty added. About 90 percent of people support the interconnect maybe even 99 out of 100, he said. But the one who doesn’t always shows up at planning commission meetings and is vocal in his Internet posts.

"Let’s get behind it and convince (policy makers) it’s a great idea," he said.

Kimball Junction Business Association President Tom Richardson was in attendance on Wednesday and said he’s promoting grass roots support for the interconnect.

Promoting summer business

Next to linking the ski areas, the next most supported proposal for boosting business was better promoting summer offerings.

"Skiers don’t just ski, Pentz said. "What else can they do while they’re here?"

Skiers are also into other forms of adventure and exercise. Mountain biking is an obvious option, but ski resorts should find other ways to tap the wellness movement, he said.

Resorts already have the infrastructure in place to serve them. There isn’t a chance to sell them $100 tickets, but there are hotel rooms and restaurant chairs to fill, he said.

"When skiers go away in April, they’re still looking for outdoor activities they don’t hibernate," Pentz added.

All three Park City resorts reported that they have expanded their summer offerings. Jenni Smith, president of Park City Mountain Resort said their summer business continues to grow.

Deer Valley Resort President Bob Wheaton said his staff has found that welcoming corporate events in summer is a great way to promote their winter offerings.

"That’s who we want in winter and we’re paid for them to come," he said.